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‘Yes my husband’s on a leash. What exactly is the problem, officer?’ | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, January 15, 2021 @ 4:00 PM | By Marcel Strigberger

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Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
Police in Sherbrooke, Que., recently ticketed a couple for COVID-19 curfew violation when they noticed the wife after hours walking her husband on a leash. The couple were apparently trying to come within the curfew exemption allowing residents to walk their dogs. Woof woof!

Let me say I believe they actually have a great defence to the $1,500 a piece ticket.

After all, what is a dog? As Humpty Dumpty said in Through the Looking Glass, “When I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” This wise comment was actually quoted by Lord Atkin in a 1940s seminal civil liberties House of Lords Liversidge v. Anderson decision.

Presumably, the police were cruising the area when they got distracted by what they thought was a strange sighting. They approached the couple and what likely angered the officers was the husband’s delay in answering their questions as he took some time to take off his gloves and remove the bone from his mouth. And it did not help after the husband got on his knees and offered the officer his hand. The officers finally lost their patience after asking to see some ID and he showed them a receipt from Pet Valu.

I see clear Charter issue defences here. Part 1, s. 2 reads in part,

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and othermedia of communication;

Where does it say a man is not free to believe he is a dog? Tell me the police did not impinge on the man’s fundamental freedom. The prosecution will have its paws full in this one.

There is a further Charter argument. I understand there was another couple out there with the man on a leash. What attracted the police officers’ attention was when they noticed one of the husbands on all fours, moving towards the other apparently trying to get a good sniff.

The police did not charge the other couple. I see this as another Charter breach, namely s. 15, guaranteeing equality before and under the law.

15.(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination …

I hear they did not charge the other couple as the wife politely explained that her husband was a beagle whereas the wife charged claimed that her husband was a pit bull. This may not have been helpful, especially when to prove her point, she said to her husband, “Jean Pierre. Let’s have a good growl.”
Equality before the law is an inalienable right. Authorities cannot wantonly look the other way with beagles and discriminate against pit bulls.

As well I see a violation of mobility rights under the Charter which ensures that all Canadians have the right to live and seek work anywhere in Canada. The couple might very well argue that they were on their way to Winnipeg. Perhaps the husband had a job waiting for him there as a service dog. As you know we lawyers cannot leave a stone unturned.

Matters could have turned out worse for the pair. It’s a good thing the police did not witness the husband’s actions moments earlier at the nearby fire hydrant.

And although I believe both charged parties have great defences to the charges, the husband has a slam dunk one in that the police irreparably messed up his ticket, referring to him as “Lassie.” 

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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